May 20, 2016
Dear Mr. You, by Mary-Louise Parker. I very much enjoyed this memoir. It has a very unique structure: each chapter is written as a letter from Mary-Louise to a man in her life. The first chapter is a letter to her father. It has chapters to everyone including friends, former lovers, the father of her adopted daughter, and her accountant. They are all revealing in their own way and to different degrees. They are funny and moving and sad and beautiful. Highly recommend.
The Legends Club, by John Feinstein. I read this in March, during the college basketball tournament, and it was fun to immerse myself in college basketball - past and present - for the month. I wish Dean had been alive to share more of his own stories and perspectives, but it is a great book nonetheless. I had fun learning more about these great coaches and fascinating men.
A Window Opens, by Elizabeth Egan. I didn't like this book at first. It felt too true to real life, and specifically, my own life. I usually read to escape or to learn or expand upon what I experience in my own life, so I didn't appreciate this right away. However, once I got more into it, I was able to enjoy and appreciate it. It's definitely relatable for any working mom.
May 18, 2016
I don't handle things well when life gets too busy. I'm not as patient, I'm not as kind, I'm not as happy. Even when all the "busy-ness" is great stuff. Even when I'm focused on fun and important things. I end up ignoring other items, and life can get out of whack very quickly. And then I end up snapping at people because the kitchen counters aren't clean or socks are on the floor and "will you please just brush your teeth already!?!"...
Spring is a crazy time of year. I knew it would be hectic due to both boys playing baseball and soccer. However, I don't think we recognized or anticipated the other events taking place. My work has been demanding, particularly since I received a promotion. Kevin's has been busy as it always is, and he has also started traveling more again. And then we have the usual end-of-the-school-year activities. Field trips, piano recitals, portfolio days...
I am not complaining, because it's all great. I just have to figure out how to enjoy it all more thoroughly. I'm trying to get enough sleep, which at this point means going to bed shortly after the boys. I'm trying to get more (or at least consistent) exercise, too, which means getting up early. I've been trying to alternate sleep days vs. exercise days during the week - it's been working the last couple weeks. Five-minute meditations are never not worthwhile. I've also been working to keep the house in some sort of order. A messy kitchen makes for a very grumpy Mary.
May 6, 2016
May 4, 2016
My sister-in-law, Claudia, has a rare condition that, over time, has caused damage to her liver. She had been placed on the transplant list and was patiently waiting for a match. As we were leaving for the airport to head to Florida a couple weeks ago, I received an email from my brother: they found a liver! As we were traveling and having fun on our vacation, Claudia was undergoing transplant surgery. Needless to say, she and my brother and their three children were constantly on my mind.
Thankfully, the surgery was a great success, and Claudia is recovering at home with her new liver. I'm so thankful for the wonderful medical care she has received, and I'm also grateful to the family who decided to donate a loved one's organs.
I have always maintained the position that my body should be donated for either transplant or research. My mom set an example by telling us she was planning on donating her body to a medical school after her death. What an amazing way to contribute to humanity! My family has always known my wishes, but Claudia's recent journey as a transplant recipient has brought the topic to the forefront of our minds. We've had the conversations again, and I've confirmed that I'm registered as a donor in my state.
My brother recently shared the following TED talk. It's incredibly powerful. I'm in awe of this woman, who was able to find wonderful meaning in her son's extremely short life. It's only 10 minutes - watch it, and be moved. And then if you're not already, think about becoming a donor yourself.
April 28, 2016
Disney World is magical. Truly. I hadn't been since 2004, and I think they've done a great job making it even more magical. Amazing.
Our trip was a smashing success. It was a tiring rather than a relaxing vacation; but we had a wonderful time, and we all got to do the things we were most excited about. The weather cooperated, only raining once and that was during dinner one night! The sun was hot, but that only made pool-time more fun. It was crowded, but the mornings were nice, and we headed back to the hotel each afternoon to relax (or ride the water slide). It was a great routine; and every day since we got back, when 3 o'clock rolls around, I feel a little sad that I don't get to go sit by a pool with a fruity drink in my hand.
A few of the highlights that I want to be sure to remember:
- On the first night, we went to a character buffet for dinner. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto all walked around the restaurant. When Goofy stopped by, I took a picture with Kevin and my MIL. He pointed to the kids, and I said, "Oh, thanks, but they want to wait for the duck." Nathan was indeed waiting for Donald Duck, but I obviously offended him, and it became a running joke throughout the trip. "No thanks, we're going to wait for the duck." Ha!
- That first day at Magic Kingdom, we arrived before the gates opened, and we headed straight for Space Mountain, as planned. The boys were running, and the squeals and laughter of excitement as we ran through the park and got on our first ride (with no line!) was everything. Magic.
- Pool-time was especially nice, because the boys are independent and can swim and ride the water slide by themselves. It was fun for them, and relaxing for us. Perfect.
- Epcot was the toughest day - the boys were tired, and there wasn't too much at Epcot that they were excited about. However, our dinner in Italy and the fireworks afterwards made for a very nice evening.
- I had never been to Animal Kingdom before, and I loved it. It's very cool. Getting there first thing and having a Fast Pass to the African Safari made it even cooler. The safari is so impressive, and it definitely exceeded my expectations.
- Hollywood Studios = Star Wars. Star Tours, pictures with Kylo Ren, a Star Wars stage show, and Jedi training. We ate lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-In restaurant, rode Toy Story Mania and the Tower of Terror too, but when we think about Hollywood Studios, we will remember Star Wars.
- We capped off our Hollywood Studios day by watching The Force Awakens on the beach at our resort. Nice.
- Splash Mountain = the consensus favorite ride of the family.
I probably won't ever be able to drag Kevin there again, but this trip was worth it, and we definitely made memories that will last a lifetime.
Seriously, the African safari was amazing!
Jedi training was really, really cool.
Watching Star Wars while sitting on a beach is not a bad way to spend an evening.
The happiest place on Earth
April 19, 2016
We are off to Florida today. I am so excited, as well as admittedly a little nervous. This will probably be our one-and-only trip to Disney World with the kids (I'm basically dragging Kevin there), so I have expectations that I'm working to manage. I love Disney World. I want good weather and happy kids with a lot of energy; but I know there will be thunderstorms at some point, and all of us will get tired. We will take breaks and play games in lines and go back to the resort when we need to rest and want to play in the pool.
I also recognize that we can't do everything, so I asked the boys what they were most looking forward to, so we can make sure we set our priorities correctly. Aaron: Everest, breakfast buffet at least twice. Nathan: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Kevin: Relaxing by the pool, Jedi training. Me: Seeing smiles on my boys' faces, African safari, Space Mountain, and the Haunted Mansion.
We have also discussed rules that we all plan to follow. Here are the main ones...
1. No whining
2. Stay together (and have mom and dad's cell phone #s memorized just in case)
3. You have saved allowance money. You can spend it on anything you want, but when it's gone, it's gone.
4. If you ask for something and we say "no" - don't ask again.
5. It's okay to admit you're tired. Remembering rule #1, let us know and we will take a break.
6. If we all can't agree on what to do, it's okay for us to split up.
7. We will take turns riding with each other - because we are an odd number, one of the adults will have to ride by themselves at times. (My mother-in-law is coming with us, and she may be the most excited one of all.)
8. No fighting. If you need a break from each other, we will split up for a bit.
9. When it's time to sleep, sleep. We all need energy for the next day.
10. Always, always, remember rule #1.
April 18, 2016
I have mentioned many times before: I love Patriot's Day. It's the best day in Boston. There's such a feeling of community and optimism in the air. I love going to our town common - located around mile 10 - and watching the runners go by. It's a tradition that I know my boys will remember as they grow up in this area. After the horrors a few years ago, the day has taken on even more emotion. It's always had a huge importance in this area, though. It's a day when everyone comes together. We are one community. Cheering for the runners, rooting for the Red Sox, enjoying each other's company. We are one.
April 14, 2016
A collection of essays and articles about parenting that I've recently read... I think we are in a pretty sweet phase right now, and we're doing okay so far; but I will never let my guard down.
A Reconsideration of Children and Screen Time. These kinds of articles always catch my eye, because we find ourselves flying blind when it comes to managing the amount of technology available to our kids today. Ten years ago I didn't own an iPhone or iPad. The world changes rapidly, and we're working to stay informed to know how to navigate as parents. I'm finding that it really comes down to trusting my gut, and then reading and talking to others to confirm my instincts. The boys are now doing a lot of their homework online, so our old rule of "no screen time during the week" has now changed to "no games during the week - educational sites only". We react and adjust and try to keep up. Stay vigilant, everyone. It's only going to get harder as they get older, and it's important.
How to Stop Sibling Fights. I wish there was an easy answer to this one. My boys swing so wildly from love to hate. I know it's harder in the winter, and this one was particularly tough; and I'm very ready for summer to take them back outside to play - and hopefully play nicely - together.
Our Push for Passion, and Why it Harms Kids. I think about this a lot. I have friends and family members who are so identified by their passions. I think of my one of my cousins - when you think of her, you can't help thinking of yoga and ultimate frisbee and her children. Another friend often says that he loves music, New Orleans, his friends and family, and that's about it. As kids in today's world, they're on a path where there is a pressure to define themselves this specifically and to become an expert in their chosen field. College applications demand it. It feels at odds with my desire to raise well-rounded boys who have the opportunities to become exposed to so many things. I think about myself, too - I am interested in many topics, but I'm not sure I ever found a "passion", and I certainly didn't have one when I was younger.
Another essay on parenting - Are we getting a raw deal? I liked this one. I like any reminder that while we should give our kids the freedom to be kids, we should also remember that we're raising them to be independent adults. Adults who know how to clean a toilet and pick up their room and mow the lawn. Adults who can appreciate what they have and all that their parents do for them.
Where's the magic in family dinner? I loved reading this. Many nights, our dinnertime lasts about 10 minutes and involves a lot of me coaching manners. "Sit up!" "Eat over your plate!" "Chew with your mouth closed!" But when the boys look back, I want them to remember that I cooked dinner for them and I took the time to eat dinner together as often as possible.
It Goes So Fast (Not a Parenting Essay). In the midst of all the parenting, don't forget that you have your own life to lead.
Oh, and I meant to include this great one from Jenny at Dinner: A Love Story. I'm putting Catastrophic Happiness on my to-read list.
April 7, 2016
On Monday morning, we woke up to a snowstorm. In the above picture, you can see our daffodils buried in snow. It was cold, the roads were bad, and our power went out for a while on Sunday. It came back, but our cable/internet/phone service did not. When I look at that picture - and out our front windows - I'm trying to focus on the blooming flowers rather than the snow.
On Monday afternoon, I got a call informing me that our sitter was in a car accident. I had to walk out of a meeting that I was facilitating to leave work immediately to pick up the boys from school. I reminded myself to focus on the facts that nobody was hurt, the boys weren't in the car, and my current job is not too far away. I got the boys and called into my next meeting from home. I'm grateful to be able to do that.
Did I mention the lack of cable/internet service? And the need to work from home? As well as the desire to watch a certain basketball game Monday night? It was an extremely frustrating day, but in the end, I was able to use my phone hotspot to connect to WiFi and get some work done. Oh, and I watched the basketball game, too.
Speaking of the basketball game - we lost, which was the cherry on top of a really crappy day. But I woke up Tuesday morning feeling nothing but gratitude at the opportunity to watch a great group of guys win a bunch of games and play an amazing championship game, losing to another great group of guys. It was satisfying.
The weather has now turned to rain, and although I hate cold rain and spring in New England, it seems like an improvement. The first week of soccer has been canceled due to the fields being covered in snow, but it will start next week. And the week after that, we are headed to Florida, to spend time in the warm sunshine at DisneyWorld.
Until then, I will do my best to keep focused on the good stuff.
March 25, 2016
Hello! Yes, I'm still here. Busy, busy, of course, and finding it difficult to spend time outside of work in front of a computer. But I'm here.
The above picture is what our backyard looked like on Monday, the first full day of spring. After a wet and weird winter, spring decided to greet us like this. I'll admit, I found it pretty funny. I thought the boys may be excited about the thought of one more day of sledding or building a snowman, but they had zero interest. They are done with winter and ready for warmer weather, just like the rest of us. Most of the snow has melted now, and the cold and rainy days of spring are upon us. Meanwhile, I continue to look forward to our upcoming trip to Florida. 25 days and counting!
Both boys are getting ready to start their spring sports season, with both playing baseball and soccer. As practice and game schedules start to get announced, I realize that we are in for a very busy spring. I also find myself very excited about it. I love watching my boys play. Aaron went through his first tryouts for baseball, and although it was to determine which level he would get assigned to (as opposed to making it or not), I was very proud of how he handled it, and he was excited to make the upper level.
It's March, which means we are watching a lot of college basketball. Go Tar Heels!
In-between basketball games, we've been watching the latest season of House of Cards. So weird and creepy and disturbing, and yet I have a hard time looking away.
I am dismayed at the increased amount of time required to maintain my appearance as I get older. The gray is relentlessly coming back, and I find I have to color at ever-shortening intervals to keep it at bay. And hair removal! My legs, my eyebrows, and depressingly, my chin - why? I sigh and remind myself that this is as good as it will ever get, so I should appreciate it, and I do. I pluck those eyebrows and do my sun salutations and slather on lotion and give thanks for my strong working body.
I have thoughts every now and then where I question why I continue to keep up this blog. Very few people read it, and I am finding it difficult to spend time here lately. The world of blogging has definitely changed over the years, and more people use Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook for a lot of the content they used to capture via their blogs. But I still love it. It's my own space, not cluttered with anyone else's images or thoughts.
I was thinking the other day about how I wish I had kept journals when I was younger. I was trying to remember the name of someone or what year something happened, and I realized my memory is pretty terrible. I have family photo albums that I started in 2006, when Aaron was born, and I have this blog, which started in 2008. I have fun looking back at pictures and my thoughts during those early baby years up to now. I wish I had the same amount of detail from my college years, or when I got my first job, or when I met my husband... I remember the important things of course, but the fun little details sometimes get lost. I try to be a forward-thinking kind of girl, but it's also nice to reflect on our lives and admire the beauty within them.
And with that, I will leave you. I would love to promise to be here more often in the coming weeks, but I can only do what I can do. Until next time...
March 1, 2016
You'd be hard-pressed to find three books as different as these. I'd recommend any of them.
Slade House, by David Mitchell. If you're a David Mitchell fan and enjoy reading something different every now and then, you'll enjoy this book. It's strange and creepy and intricate and highly entertaining. I'd definitely recommend reading Mitchell's The Bone Clocks first - there's a very strong connection between the two.
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the age of 36, just as he was finishing his long journey towards becoming a neurosurgeon. This book is a memoir, describing his journey through medical school and through his experience with cancer. It is an intimate book, and it forces the reader to ask difficult questions. It would be impossible not to be moved; especially after reading the last section of the book, written by Paul's wife after his death.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I am not sure what it was that motivated me to pick up this book, but I am so happy that I did. It's written as a letter from the author to his fifteen-year-old son, in an attempt to explain and come to terms with what it's like to grow up as an African-American male. I would suggest reading this review - I couldn't say it any better than this. I highly, highly recommend reading this book. It's powerful, and it has taken me out of my bubble and given me a new perspective.
February 26, 2016
February 25, 2016
The look of surprise when I mentioned my age to a couple co-workers. Lineup announcements for the Newport Folk Festival. Discovering new artists. College basketball games. Playing "robot rummy" with the boys. (It's like regular rummy, but with robot cards!) Downton Abbey - Only one episode left!:-( On-sale avocados. Five-minute meditation. Emails from friends. Reports from Spring Training.
February 24, 2016
Kevin got me a standing mixer for Christmas. I've always wanted one, and I can't wait to try it out for something more complex than chocolate chip cookies (although it's also a dream for chocolate chip cookies!). I went back and forth on what color to get - I'm so indecisive sometimes, it's scary. Part of me wanted to get white or silver, to keep it simple and classic. The other part felt that there's a reason they come in such fun colors, and why not mix it up? So I went for it, choosing this happy light blue. It's another burst of color in my kitchen, and it makes me happy.
I've been feeling very nostalgic lately. This is not altogether unusual, but it's increased recently due to the return of the X-Files, my favorite TV show from the 90s, and the announcements of reunion tours and new music by both Belly and Letters to Cleo, two of my favorite bands from the 90s. I think I will probably have to come to terms with the fact that I will continue to see anniversary announcements that take me back - Throwing Muses' "The Real Ramona" just turned 25, the Challenger exploded 30 years ago...
The boys were on vacation last week. Typically, we'd take the week to head north to go skiing, but we weren't able to take the time this year due to our many other upcoming vacation plans. So we stayed home. Kevin and I worked, and the boys stayed home with a sitter. They enjoyed a break from their usual routines, but I admit it was a little strange to have them home while we left for work. It feels good to get back to the usual school routine this week.
Less than two months to our first actual vacation of the year, and I can't wait! I have our Disneyworld itinerary, including all reservations, all set and ready to go. If it rains...well, we'll just put on our ponchos and go! (But fingers crossed for decent weather, because I need some sunshine!)
We had family visit us last weekend, which is always good and nice to connect, especially those that you don't get to see very often. Life is good. We're working hard, learning, reading, singing, playing... The weather has been dark and cold and wet - mostly a miserable winter this year, and it can be difficult not to get dragged down by it. Things that are helping me lately include good books, card games, college basketball, and family visits. Reminders that it's really all about the little things.
February 12, 2016
For the longest time, I said I liked all kinds of music - except country. Then I listened to Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris and Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson and Nikki Lane and Shovels & Rope and Caitlin Rose and.... I realized that I loved country music. I just don't love the stuff they play on the radio.
I recently checked out Chris Stapleton, who is as country as you can get. And I dig him. I couldn't even decide which song to include here, so I added two - one with a full band, and one acoustic with just him and his wife. Both awesome.
February 11, 2016
I said to myself - over and over again - that when I went back to work, I was not going to fall into the same crazy and over-stressed routine that I had been in before. For the most part, I've been successful. I'm busy, but I've generally felt okay about the balance. Lately I've been taking on more at work, because there's that part of me that wants to achieve and be recognized, and also because the tasks I've been taking on are interesting and important to me. Most importantly, I felt like I had the capacity to do these things.
I was recently asked to take on something else, and I hesitated. It is so difficult to say no, but I felt like I had reached my limit. If I took this on, something else would be sacrificed. It was uncomfortable, but I ultimately said no. I immediately felt guilty about it, and I've felt guilty ever since; but I continue to remind myself that I can't do it all. At least not at the same time. Perhaps the next time this opportunity comes up, I'll be able to step up, but not now.
It can be hard to accept this type of self-imposed limitation, especially in my business. A business full of young, ambitious people. But I think I am (mostly) at peace with it. I have other priorities in my life. I will work hard, but I will also ensure that there is room for everything else. There is so much more to life than work.
February 10, 2016
We finally got a couple great days of skiing in! So far, winter has been pretty mean to the ski resort owners in New England. January was so warm that there hasn't been an opportunity for us to get back out on the slopes. We were invited to spend a weekend with friends who are renting a place in New Hampshire, and we took them up on the offer last weekend.
There was still very little snow in the forecast, but we decided to take the chance anyway. We were pleasantly surprised at the conditions. Most of the trails were open, and the nice weather made it really fun. As an added bonus, nobody was there! There were no lines for the lifts or for food in the lodges. It was great!
Our friends have two boys, similar ages to ours, and we all skied together. This was our first trip where the adults were having a hard time keeping up with the kids!
I hope we're able to get some more skiing in this winter - it makes the whole season so much more enjoyable. I also love the fact that my legs feel tight and strong as a result of the shoop-shoop. Happy February!
February 3, 2016
Don't Suck, Don't Die, by Kristin Hersh.
Kristin Hersh is one of my all-time favorites. I loved Rat Girl, and I will be willing and excited to read anything she writes. I knew Vic Chesnutt's music a little, but I confess that I didn't know that much about him. I knew he was a songwriter, and I knew he was paralyzed. I did not know that he only had limited use of his hands. After reading this book, I almost feel like I knew him personally. Kristin writes with such raw accessibility and honesty - she doesn't hold anything back. The good and the bad are all here. We get to know this beautiful and broken man through his music and through his relationship with one of his best friends. Highly recommend, especially if you have any interest in his music.
Thirteen Ways of Looking, by Colum McCann. This book is a collection of short stories. The writing is very good, and I liked some of the stories better than others. Overall, though, it's quite sad. I love Colum McCann's writing, and I enjoyed other books of his, but I'm not sure I'd recommend this one.
The Nightingale, by Kristen Hannah. I loved this book. It drew me in instantly, and the writing is beautiful - I had a clear picture in my mind of every character, every scene, every conversation... I didn't want to put it down, and I found myself going to bed early in order to read. It's set in World War 2, which means it's tragic and difficult to read at times; but overall, it's a beautiful story, and it's one that will continue to stick with me.
Kristin Hersh and Vic Chesnutt
February 2, 2016
Love Bill Nye.
A few interesting reads for this week...
This fake movie trailer is hilariously perfect.
I very much enjoyed this interview with Lucy Kalanithi in the NY Times. "When Breath Becomes Air" is next up on my to-read stack.
UN Urges Global Move to Meat and Dairy-Free Diet. Interesting to think of the global view. I already eat very little meat, but it would be extremely difficult for me to do without cheese.
Speaking of vegetables, I want to make this stew.
America Dumbs Down. This article makes me sad.
White Privilege is Not Something to Feel Guilty About. Here's What It Does Mean. Important information to know and understand.
How Rich Parents Can Exacerbate School Inequality. Our town falls somewhere in the middle of the extremes discussed here, but it's something that has been on my mind for a long time. I wish there was an easier way for us to support schools in lower-income areas.
An interesting perspective. Makes you think about the things you really want and what you're willing to do to get them.
Newport has started their lineup announcements! Every week or so between now and July, I get to receive a little jolt of excitement from the good people of the Newport Folk Festival. Lucky me!